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Teaching the Reason for Healthy Eating

January 24, 2013 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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I’ve mentioned it before: my four year old son has some very definite ideas about what he likes (and doesn’t like) to eat. But a few weeks ago he caught me by surprise. He started asking for water to drink at mealtimes instead of milk. I complied with his request for a couple of days, but once it started to become a regular thing, I needed to get more information from him. While water is the preferred beverage to satisfy thirst, I wanted to be sure my son didn’t exclude milk. So, I asked him why he didn’t want to drink milk.

“Milk is for babies,” he told me.

WHAT?!? Where had he heard this?

Both my husband and I grew up drinking milk, and we still drink it because it’s an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, vitamin B12, and other important nutrients. When each of our kids was weaned from breast milk, we started them on cow’s milk.

“Milk isn’t just for babies,” I responded. I tried to point out that “I drink milk. Daddy drinks milk. Grandad and Grandma drink milk too.”

He remained unconvinced. Then it occurred to me: he needs to know why I’m offering him milk. He has no idea that it’s good for him.

“Milk will help make your bones big and strong as you grow up. If your bones are strong you won’t get hurt as easily,” I told him. I know this is an overly simplified description of the role of milk in his diet, but he is only four.

That was all it took. A reason. Now that he knows why he’s drinking it, he actually requests milk to drink “because it will make me strong!”

Role modeling healthy eating is important, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes, our children need to understand why we eat and drink certain foods. What do they do for our bodies? Then they’ve got a reason to care.

Do you know why certain foods are recommended for good health? If you’re curious, phone 8-1-1 and ask a dietitian. They are available to answer your questions Monday to Thursday 8am to 8pm and Friday 8am to 5pm.

Related Posts:
Tweens Teach Me About Greens

Recommended Resources:
Top 10 Reasons to Drink Milk

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